My son was about 5 years old when he started making his own Christmas lists. Each year, he’d excitedly place his list on the refrigerator for me to see. And this year, my son, now 10, got fancy and delivered his list to me via text from his iPad.
I still remember his first list clearly. He’d written it out on a piece of candy-cane striped paper I had stored in a desk. He numbered each item carefully. Once he was finished, he placed the list on the fridge and happily announced the completion of his task.
“Mommy!” he shouted across the house, “My Christmas list is ready for Santa!” I thanked him and told him I’d look it over later that night.
After he’d been tucked into bed, I went to the fridge to examine his list so I could get an idea of the “damage” Christmas would cost. To my surprise, my son had written down only three gift ideas. I was perplexed. When I was a child, my Christmas lists were always several lines long. In fact, my mother would ask me to star my top three items, all while reminding me I probably wouldn’t receive everything I’d hoped for.
I thought that maybe his small list was a fluke, a one-time occurrence, but I was wrong.
Ever since that first list he created, my son has only asked for three or four items for Christmas each year.
In the past, my husband and I felt guilty after fulfilling his list. Were we really going to present him with only three items on Christmas morning?
Out of guilt—or maybe just our own discomfort—we bought more. We’d purchase extra toys, gaming systems, clothes, movies and the like. We wanted to make sure he was happy with his presents, and we thought the answer to that was: more.
We were wrong.
Year after year, we watched our son happily open his gifts, but continually noticed his lack of interest in all the ‘extra’ items we added in. He was most excited about what he asked for—those three items he wrote down and stuck to the fridge.
And yet, we continued to do the same thing over and over again. Until now.
This year, my 10-year-old son has only three items on his Christmas list, and that’s what he’s getting from us—those three things, and those three things only.
A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to the concept of minimalism and I haven’t looked back. Soon after I incorporated minimalism into my life, my grandfather passed away. Through his passing, I have been given the gift of perspective—I’ve been able to reflect on what matters most in life, and I’ve realized that the majority of the things I possess don’t really add much value to my life.
I treasure experiences and time spent with loved ones. I treasure simplicity. I treasure financial security. Buying material items doesn’t add value in most cases. Another purse is great for about a month, and then the luster wears off.
With the holidays in full swing, I realized that my son, though he didn’t know it, had been teaching me about the value of minimalism all along.
So this year, I’m listening to him.
Aside from our Christmas Eve tradition of PJs and a movie and a few small stocking stuffers like chewing gum and socks, my husband and I have decided to fulfill our son’s list without indulging in extra purchases.
This year will be different in another way, because our family has grown. Now our baby boy will also receive presents under the tree. And rather than buying him a mound of toys, clothes and miscellaneous items—we’ll keep his gifts minimal, too. (After all, a 1-year-old, doesn’t have a very specific wish list, anyway.)
A couple of years ago, my husband and I decided to start taking family trips the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. As we minimize the money spent on “things,” we’ve been able to maximize the money we put toward our trips, which will enable us to travel to destinations we might not have considered before. Our children will have the opportunity to see places my husband and I have only daydreamed about.
We’ll be giving our children experiences we never had as kids, which is really the goal, isn’t it?